THEATER OF LIFE
Act 1: Getting Started
In the wee hours of the morning, I woke because my cotton panties had soaked through. Nothing more than that; no dramatic gush; but they were wet. I managed to go back to sleep for a bit, but excitement had its way with me and I headed downstairs at three AM.
This was Friday, June 11th, and my baby, gender unknown, had a due date of Saturday, June 12th. This was my first. My pregnancy had been a beautiful, blissful, trouble-free one. We were expecting an equally smooth delivery at our home with the help of midwives from Choice. We felt like our entire community was almost as excited about our baby’s arrival as we were. I had a few more projects I needed to pass on to the office before I took maternity leave. I barely finished my email before I had to head back upstairs and wake Chris, my husband, to time suddenly intense contractions (or surges, as we had learned to call them in Hypnobirthing, our birthing method).
We had been told to call our midwives once my surges were ten minutes apart, so they would have as much notice as possible to join us. However, once we began timing them, we discovered to our amazement that they were already only four minutes apart. Chris immediately called one of our three midwives, and we let them know we were doing fine but to come as soon as they could.
It would be wrong to tell you that I recall every detail from here on out, as my labor progressed MUCH faster than expected. It is a mix of clarity and blur for me, sometimes moving in fast forward and sometimes in extreme slow-motion, and more of everything than anything I have known before.
ACT 2: Labor
By the time our senior midwife, Nina, arrived at our home around 10 am, I was sitting in our claw-foot tub with my shirt on, dealing with major pain but holding it together. Chris asked if I wanted to take my clothes off, but that was way beyond me already. I soaked and tried to stay calm as waves of pain washed over. We practiced relaxation methods we’d learned in class, but it was amazingly intense. Was this really just the beginning?
When I finally was able to drag myself, with help, out of the tub and in to the bedroom, Nina reported that I was already in transition at eight centimeters dilation. “Thank God!” I thought. Truly, I thanked Him, and the Buddha and the Goddess Mother and any other deity I could think of, before the next surge hit me. I settled in on the bed, Chris squeezing my hand, and listened to a relaxation script as I went deep inside myself, doing my best to meditate. Our other midwives, Tanya and Rachel, arrived and everyone waited silently for me to have the urge to push. By eleven I was fully dilated and the urge to push started pushing me over. It had been only five hours.
ACT 3: Pushing
We passed hours pushing in various positions. Pushing, and what became the monumental task of putting on my pearl earrings – which was my last attempt to get a hold of the situation and pull myself together and back in to “the plan”. I did get them on, and I got more intense aching in my back, hips and pelvis than I have ever felt. The baby’s head was, and had been, visible for a long time, but it had not made any progress since near the beginning. Two steps forward, two steps back.
I was becoming a tired wreck. Chris was losing his cool. Around 2:30 PM, as if in a movie, the sky got grey and thunder cracked and it seemed like the baby should deliver right then. But as quickly as it came, it passed; the sky cleared and The Little One still was not moving. I was, in short, exhausted to my core. I was crying. I needed it to end. A half hour later, and after consultation with my birth team, we hung out a white flag and we prepared to go to the hospital.
ACT 4: Scene Change
I pulled a mumu on over my head and Chris and I headed to the car. I was moving across the lawn, legs far apart making room for stretched parts, and I was pushing. The neighbors were on the front porch and tried to say “hello”, not picking up the cues that this was no casual stroll. Our drive to Grant Hospital was the most surreal experience I have had EVER. We hit every red light, people cut us off, and Chris was trying his best to get us there safely. All the while I was panting and thinking of our baby, stuck just out of reach behind my pubic bone.
Once we arrived at the Labor and Delivery entrance I was ushered into a wheel chair. I can tell you ladies, even pearls are not enough to make you seem together when you’re being wheeled along, writhing in pain, mid-contraction, after 2.5 hours of active pushing. I really wanted to appear OK, though, as if that would make it so. I was holding myself up little on the handlebars to relieve some pressure, trying not to make a sound. This was not the grand entrance I had been dreaming of.
ACT 5: Pushing
The Midwives had called ahead and Labor and Delivery was expecting us. We were greeted by a nurse, Michelle, and she was exactly what I needed. She and an epidural, Stat! A half hour later, and several failed attempts to draw blood, I finally I got relief as the pain medication sunk in. The Doctor was called in to examine me. He could see the baby’s head, and pronounced that it was occiput posterior, or sunny-side up, explaining my terrible back pain. Since the baby still had a steady heart rate, the Doc said he would allow me, if I wanted to, to rest and then try pushing again. I still had high hopes of making it work. I tried to rest, and the drugs made me feel like I was floating away; I had to ask Nina to press my feet to counter act my shaking body. I began pushing again, coached by my own my midwives, for another 45 minutes. Again, there was movement but no progress. Then I pushed some more while Dr. Brown used a vacuum extractor. All the nurses and the midwives and Chris joined in to cheer along as a drugged, exhausted, pissed, primal mother attempted to rise up in a last ditch effort to avoid the surgery we all knew would be next.
Despite the spirited encouragement, the vacuum became disengaged three times and Dr. Brown called it. But I was ready to throw in the towel, too. I knew the shift change at the hospital was coming in just over an hour, and I could not bear to be passed to a new group of doctors and nurses. My caesarian went typically: the curtain, the straps, and the incision across my pregnant belly. My husband stood to witness what I could not – the pulling of OUR BEAUTIFUL SON from out from my body. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck 3 times and he had been tethered inside. The source of our problems was revealed! His birth occurred at 6:35pm. Despite the trauma of his birth, he was perfect and healthy.
Days earlier, my father, the new “Grandpa Joe”, had sent a letter for the coming child with the direction of reading it on June 11th. Chris ran home to get it and brought it back to our lovely postpartum recovery room at Grant. We read it through tears around 11 pm. The end of that letter reads, “You are the blessing, the affirmation, the gift and the good”. There’s nothing more truthful; a truth you finally know in that moment when you have a child. As our final task of that heavy and full day we named our son Nico Augustine Hawker. We had intended to teach Nico all about life. As it turned out dear Nico intended to teach us about life as well; the drama, the thrill, the tragedy, the comedy and most of all the love story that it is.
From Sommer Renaldo of Label Brand & Design Boutique.
P.S. — Goddess Leonie wrote the beautiful, spiritual birth story of her daughter Ostara in 3 parts.
Note from Design Mom: throughout my pregnancy, I posted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. My baby has now arrived — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.